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Four undiscovered sites to use when investing

Going to Yahoo Finance and Bloomberg are so cliche. Check out these small investment startups that provide the same information.

Sure, the economy is in bad shape. Investing now can be dangerous. But that doesn't mean you should be scared; it's also a time of opportunity. There are companies in the Market right now that are worth investing in and thanks to the recession, shares in many of them can be acquired at a discount.

Finding those companies isn't always easy. You can go to sites like Yahoo Finance or Bloomberg to find data, but there are also some smaller, yet useful services that provide different perspectives.

Covestor

Sometimes, especially when you're new to investing, investing in the same companies as someone with a proven track record of making money in the stock market is worth considering. A small service called Covestor provides users with the ability to do just that. But unlike sites like GuruFocus, which allow users to monitor professionals like Warren Buffett, Covestor lets its users track individual investors.

Covestor's main goal is to "de-institutionalize fund management." To do that, it requires users to sign up and create a profile that tracks all the investments they make by linking their brokerage account to the service. Covestor tracks user performance and provides a leader board for other users to find and follow top performers.

Once a user starts following another, they can determine if the person they're following really knows what they're doing and if so, instruct Covestor to make trades on their behalf by following exactly what the other person does. Once that happens, the followee will then receive some compensation from Covestor based on the follower's performance.

It may sound risky to perform all the same trades as a person you don't know, but in a strange way, it makes sense. If you use a fund manager, that's all you're doing anyway and at least by following others through Covestor, you can see what works and what doesn't. Simply put, it's a neat service that's not only free, but very educational.

Emerginvest

One of the main issues facing sites like Bloomberg or MarketWatch is that most of their focus is placed squarely on U.S.-based companies. It makes sense--most of the visitors to those sites are looking for information on companies that operate in the United States. But that doesn't mean we don't need international data, and that's exactly what Emerginvest provides.

The self-proclaimed "Yahoo Finance for the rest of the world," Emerginvest provides financial data about companies that are operating outside the U.S. Once you register for the site, it displays a "heat map" detailing the performance of markets around the world. That's just a starting point for what is a deluge of financial information about companies operating in more than 120 countries. That data includes news, market overviews, sector data, individual company performance, analysis, and much more.

Even better, Emerginvest provides a link to brokerages that allows users to purchase the security in international markets. Unfortunately, though, I've found that few brokerages will allow their clients to acquire obscure international securities.

InvestingMinds

InvestingMinds is an investment community where members can share opinions and advice on a variety of topics like stocks, bonds, and financial planning. And it's that community that makes InvestingMinds such a unique and useful service.

InvestingMinds aims to combine the knowledge of the population to help the individual. And although there are some opinions by some users that are totally outrageous ("never considering buying Google stock," for one), most of the information on the site helps investors gain a better understanding about investing and what precautions to take before jumping into it.

Once the user signs up, they can create a personal profile and start communicating with other members on the site through its instant messaging and group platforms. The site also features an area to research companies of interest and create an investment portfolio that can be shared with the rest of the community. But the real value comes in the forums and blogs where investors share their insight into investing. That doesn't mean it's all valuable and it's advised that research play an important role before making investment decisions. But by and large, the community does a fine job of correcting many of the outlandish ideas posited by some users.

SaneBull

Although SaneBull doesn't provide anything unique to set itself apart from a site like Yahoo Finance, it's a great service that makes tracking and researching stocks much easier.

SaneBull's main attraction is its Market Monitor. The tool provides users with live stock quotes, real-time news, and key comparison factors like financial ratios and Balance Sheet assessment, making it easier to determine the financial health of a prospective investment. Even better, it's free.

But the real attraction to SaneBull is the way in which users can access all that data. SaneBull is actually more that a research site; it's a widget platform. And after opening the Market Monitor, users move a series of stock price, news, and key ratio widgets around the screen in any order they wish. They can even resize the images to squeeze more information on the canvas. The site also lets users embed those widgets into their Wordpress blog or Facebook profile.

SaneBull won't make you a better investor, but you will become a more informed investor. And that's not such a bad thing.